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EU to enhance defence, security engagement with partners in Indo-Pacific

NEW DELHI (PTI): The European Union has vowed to enhance its defence and security engagement with its partners in the Indo-Pacific and announced the extension of the concept of a coordinated maritime presence in the north-west Indian Ocean.

The 27-nation bloc came out with a detailed note on its strategy for the Indo-Pacific following a meeting of its ministerial forum in Paris on Tuesday which was attended by External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar.

The EU said the Ministerial Forum for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific highlighted the shared ambition among participants to work together for peace, prosperity and inclusive development in Europe and the Indo-Pacific.

In a statement, it said the forum reaffirmed its commitment to a rules-based international order, respect for international law and freedom of navigation in accordance with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

In his address at the forum, Jaishankar said that greater power and stronger capabilities should lead to "responsibility and restraint", in remarks seen as a veiled reference to China.

The ministerial forum was co-chaired by French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and Josep Borrell, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

It said the ministerial forum reaffirmed the importance of ensuring a high level of protection of personal data as reflected in the declaration between the EU and nine Indo-Pacific countries on privacy and personal data protection, to strengthen confidence in the digital economy and continue cooperation on trusted data flows.

The nine countries are India, Australia, Comores, Japan, Mauritius, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea; Singapore and Sri Lanka.

"The ministerial forum also supported the launch of the negotiation for the digital partnerships between the EU and Japan, Singapore and South Korea, based on shared values and a common approach to a human-centric digital transformation," it said.

The EU said the forum resolved to strengthen the ties between the EU and Indo-Pacific partners through cooperation and building on the shared commitments including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris Agreement on Climate change and the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD).

"In the field of security and defence, the EU announced the extension of the concept of a coordinated maritime presence in the north-west Indian Ocean," the EU said.

"This will allow the EU to further support stability and security in the Indo-Pacific region, to optimise naval deployments, to promote coherence of European action and to facilitate the exchange of information and cooperation with partners in the Indo-Pacific," it said.

The EU also reaffirmed its determination to enhance its engagement in security and defence with partners in the region, for example through strengthening its dialogues and bilateral relationships.

In the area of connectivity, the EU said the importance of a sustainable, inclusive and rules-based approach was reiterated, as was the need to enhance cooperation on central regulatory frameworks and the deployment of secure and resilient physical infrastructures.

"The EU will aim to promote all dimensions of quality connectivity with Indo-Pacific partners in a strategic manner, building on the Global Gateway, the EU Strategy for cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, and the EU Strategy on Connecting Europe and Asia," it said.

The 'Global Gateway' is based on the principles of good governance including transparency, financial and fiscal sustainability, fair competition and the use of multilateral tools.

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